Monday, May 28, 2012
Tassajara flowers in a dry year
One of my most favorite places to see wildflowers is Tassajara, monastery in winter and hot springs resort in summer. Last year, Ms. Country Mouse and I had the great pleasure of taking a class on the plants of Tassajara, and to spend some time together in the beautiful Los Padres National Forest eating the very fine meals and enjoying the sulfur hot springs. This year, I took the trip down with Mr. Mouse. We had been invited to participate in the Tassajara No Race, an annual event that starts at 7:30 (more or less) on a Saturday in May. After a brief invitation to enjoy the wonderful flowers and surrounding wilderness, everyone sets out to walk up the mountain (well, a few young people usually run, but the rest of us prefers a more sedate pace).
Everyone walks as far as they want, and then they turn around. There's a water station at every mile marker. At the 5 mile mark, and after a 4000 foot elevation gain, an SUV is waiting to drive those who would like back down the hill - or one can walk down and enjoy the views. Mr. Mouse and I managed the whole walk, and also walked back down. We even got back for lunch - though we missed the unveiling of this year's T-shirt. The No Race has existed for 30? 40? - many years, and each year a new T-shirt has been designed.
We both enjoyed the whole experience. After a cool start and a steep uphill, we started to notice (and photograph) the many wildflowers. We especially enjoyed the flowers this year - with only half of the average annual rainfall, we had worried that many of the flowers would be summer dormant. Some of the pants, especially some of the early season annuals such as baby blue eyes, were gone. Some plants, such as Penstemon heterophyllus (foothill penstemon) and Delphinium (larkspur) were less common. Maybe they bloomed earlier? Other plants were amazing, including Ceanothus integerrimus (deer brush), here covering the hill along the road.
Here a close-up. I wish I could share the humming of the happy bees as well.
Also more vibrant than ever was Eriophyllum confertifolium (golden yarrow).
And Yerba Santa, which is usually starting to look a little ratty with a black fungus this time of year look resplendent with beautiful light violet flowers.
Even non-plant-people remarked on Penstemon centrifolius (Scarlet Buglar), which was especially eye-catching at the higher elevations.
Here's a close-up, with monkey flower which was also especially stunning.
And here's another photo from a second hike along the horse pasture trail that we took two days later.
And a second photo from that same hike, with Salvia spatacea and a brodia, both pretty successful in my own garden as well this year.
After such a great mini-vacation, we felt refreshed and ready to go back to work. And who knows, I might go back in September, when our teacher from last year, Diane Renshaw, will teach a class on propagating Tassajara plants and using them in the garden. Here is the link - won't you join us?